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Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment is a wake-up call for women voters | Cecile Richards

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 00:17

It’s not only Roe v Wade on the line. Parental leave, affordable childcare, equal pay, the Affordable Care Act - all are under threat

The pandemic and its collateral economic crisis have illustrated like never before that women are the backbone of America. Before Covid-19, women made up more than half the workforce, nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, and the majority of caregivers. One in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential. Right now, millions of women are pulling off an impossible balancing act: working while trying to keep their families safe and healthy during a terrifying time. Others have lost jobs, have had their wages or hours cut, and more than 800,000 women have left the workforce.

This crisis is disproportionately burdening women, especially women of color. They need immediate relief, but instead of solving this crisis, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have focused on one thing: pushing through a supreme court nominee who wants to take away healthcare for millions and strip away rights women have had for decades. And they’re doing it against the will of the majority of Americans, who believe that voters should decide who makes the next appointment to the court.

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We need to keep talking about miscarriage – and share the pain | Suzanne Moore

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 07:17

Whether its in discussions of miscarriage or menstruation, the words ‘woman’ and ‘mother’ are being erased by some. Why can’t we just say that women and trans men have periods?

You know something is wrong when they pause and say: “I am just going to get a colleague.” It was a 20-week scan. The baby was dead. They thought it had possibly died a couple of weeks earlier, and sent me home to “let nature take its course”. The idea of a dead thing inside me, black stuff leaking out of me, was horrible. My GP was sympathetic, the risk of infection was high and she got me back into hospital. I had a new job so I made up some story about an ovarian cyst, as I found the whole experience very hard to explain. After all, I had two healthy children, so I shouldn’t be sad. Some women have repeated miscarriages. One medic told me I should think myself lucky.

The next time was way more dramatic. In a normal pregnancy, the level of certain hormones climbs slowly. The blood tests showed mine were zigzagging. This meant the pregnancy was ectopic – the embryo was stuck and growing in the fallopian tube. The baby would never be born. Again I was “lucky” as, during one checkup, everything happened very quickly. A floaty feeling came over me. The danger of ectopic pregnancy is that, if the fallopian tube ruptures, there is severe internal haemorrhaging. Weirdly, you feel the pain in your shoulder.

I was banged on to a trolley and rushed along underground tunnels that stretched beneath the hospital, with people shouting: “Get plasma in her”, “She is tachycardic”, “Tell theatre we are getting her in now”. It really is like ER, I remember thinking; they do get very excited.

Haemorrhage is a strange experience, in that you don’t much care. (Once I went round to see a friend who was miscarrying and found her sitting in a huge pool of blood, apparently feeling no real urgency to get to A&E.) When I woke up, my throat hurt, I had bruises everywhere: emergency surgery is necessarily violent. There were catheters and tubes and, opposite, an old guy was staring at me. I was on a mixed ward. “Heart attacks, mainly,” the nurse explained. At least I had a diamorphine syringe driver, but it was making me throw up constantly. A close friend visited and burst into tears at the sight of me. Someone came and asked if I wanted counselling. “Yes I do,” I replied. He wrote down a number, but the phone was at the end of the ward and at that point I couldn’t walk.

These are tales of average loss. This is what it is like to think you are to be a mother and then have that taken away. The veiled, secret mourning. Miscarriage is extremely common and we talk about it a little more now than we used to, as we do menstruation, so that the shame and pain of it can be shared and hopefully slightly dissipate.

In having that conversation, it’s important to be clear about our terminology. On Twitter this weekend, there was consternation when a month-old ad from Tampax resurfaced that read: “Fact: not all women have periods. Also a fact: not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed.”

In our world of alternative facts, it sometimes seems women cannot be named. Women and trans men have periods. Why not just say that? It then emerged that, two weeks ago, Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal-death charity, had tweeted: “Often the focus of support and comfort is on the birthing parent, which can leave partners or non-birthing parents feeling isolated and alone. Sands is here for you.” It later apologised, as bereaved mothers were rightly appalled.

Now, whether we are talking about menstruation or miscarriage, mother as well as woman is considered by some to be exclusionary language. Women have been told our fear of being erased is something we just have to suck up. But I’m genuinely sure that most trans people have sympathy for grieving women. Men are never required to make space or to change their language. Meanwhile, women die in menstrual huts in Nepal; in the US, the infant mortality rate for black women is shockingly high; and all over the world we still have period poverty.

When I went back for my checkup after my ectopic pregnancy, I fell in love with the doctor because a) he was gorgeous, b) he saved my life and c) he was the most pro-women doctor I have ever met. As I wept that, at 41, I was too old to have another child, he said he could help. Most of his female colleagues didn’t want children until they were consultants, he said, which was usually in their late 30s, so he considered it his job to aid the process if necessary through IVF or other medical means. “Impregnate me now!” I had to stop myself screaming. The pregnancy hormones were still running around my brain. “I am so glad to see you,” he said as we parted. “The last woman I opened up in your condition, I lost on the table.”

Language matters. As Andrea Dworkin – a trans ally – once said: “Men have defined the parameters of every subject.” They still do. It is not transphobic for women to name our experiences as females and mothers. To insist our bodies matter and that our losses are real. It is a matter of life and death.

• Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist

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'I was absolutely terrified': Australian witness recounts Qatar strip-search ordeal

Sun, 10/25/2020 - 15:29

Kim Mills was one of nine women taken off a Qatar Airways flight in Doha, and the only one not to be strip-searched as authorities hunted the mother of an abandoned newborn baby

An Australian woman has described the “terrifying” experience of being taken off a Qatar Airways flight by authorities who strip-searched passengers as they tried to identify the mother of an infant found in the Doha airport toilets.

Kim Mills was one of nine women taken off a Qatar Airways flight bound for Sydney on 2 October and led through the bowels of the Hamad International airport to what appeared to be a dark carpark or turning circle, where three ambulances were waiting to perform medical examinations to determine if any of the women had recently given birth.

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Almost half of British women do not self-examine for breast cancer

Sun, 10/25/2020 - 14:01

Specialists describe survey’s findings as deeply concerning, as early diagnosis increases chances of successful treatment

Almost half of women do not check their breasts regularly for potential signs of breast cancer, and one in 10 never do so, a survey has revealed.

Women who do not look for changes in their breasts should get in the habit of examining them, as early detection of lumps and other symptoms could save their life, experts say.

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Investment industry urged to promote more black women

Sun, 10/25/2020 - 14:01

Black Women in Asset Management calls on industry to build anti-racist portfolios and tackle discrimination

The investment industry is being urged to promote more black women and build anti-racist investment portfolios in order to tackle systemic discrimination in the sector. Less than 1% of investment managers are black.

Black Women in Asset Management (BWAM) – a group of 300 industry professionals in England and Wales – has written to investment firms asking them to go beyond “solidarity statements” with the black community, following Black Lives Matter protests sparked by police violence and the killing of George Floyd in the US in May.

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The Observer view on Poland's draconian abortion ban | Observer editorial

Sat, 10/24/2020 - 20:15

The EU must defend itself against the attack on women’s rights in one of its member nations

Last week’s flawed ruling by a constitutional tribunal in Warsaw drastically restricting the right to abortion is a grim reminder that women’s rights and, more broadly, the rule of law are under serious threat in Poland. This oppressive decision is part of a slide towards authoritarianism that began in earnest after the rightwing populist Law and Justice party (PiS) of Jarosław Kaczyński won an absolute majority in 2015. It must not be allowed to continue.

Halting this deterioration is, first, a matter for the people of Poland. Although this predominantly Catholic, socially conservative country already has some of the strictest abortion prohibitions in Europe, surveys suggest that only a small minority supports additional curbs. Not for the first time, Kaczyński and PiS are deliberately ignoring the democratic consensus to advance a narrow ideological and religious agenda.

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Pro-choice protesters march in Polish cities amid abortion ban anger

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 10:04

Crowd confronts police outside home of Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s ruling party

Pro-choice protesters marched in cities across Poland on Friday amid public anger over a ruling banning almost all abortion in the country.

An angry crowd confronted riot police near the Warsaw house of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s rightwing ruling party, and waved signs that read, “You Have Blood on Your Hands” and “You are Building Women’s Hell”.

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Listen to women and close the gender pain gap | Letter

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 05:34

Dismissing the concerns of women in pain adds to their distress, writes Sarah Hyde

The proliferation of support groups for women dealing with conditions such as endometriosis and migraine is testament to the existence of the gender pain gap discussed by Emma Barnett (Endometriosis showed me we need better ways to talk about women’s pain, 22 October). In Giving up the Ghost, Hilary Mantel, who has suffered from both conditions, describes both the excruciating physical pain of illness that is misdiagnosed and mistreated, and the stress and humiliation of being “ignored, invalidated, and humiliated” – not being listened to, and not being believed.

This is not just another complaint directed at overworked NHS staff (though I have not forgiven the neurologist who, instead of treating my migraine, told me: “I don’t know what you’re making a fuss about – it won’t kill you”). Those outside the medical profession can cause pain by their casually dismissive comments too. One of the cries most often heard in migraine groups is “Migraine is not just a headache!” I imagine endometriosis sufferers shout: “This is not just period pain!” Employers, colleagues, friends and families need to think twice and listen again when women tell them they are in pain.
Sarah Hyde
London

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Rape prosecutions and convictions dropped by half early in UK pandemic

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 06:34

Data for England and Wales reflects lockdown, distancing and rising court backlog

Prosecutions for crimes against women and girls in England and Wales plummeted in the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, reflecting a backlog in the court system exacerbated by the UK-wide shutdown and subsequent social distancing measures.

The number of completed rape prosecutions more than halved, falling to 218 in the three months to June this year compared with 480 in the previous quarter, according to violence against women and girls (VAWG) figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). There were 174 convictions resulting from those 218 prosecutions, a record rate of 80%, down from 341 ( 71%) in the previous quarter.

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Poland rules abortion due to foetal defects unconstitutional

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 06:31

Constitutional court’s ruling could pave way for governing PiS party to move ahead with legislative ban

Poland’s constitutional tribunal has ruled that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional, rejecting the most common of the few legal grounds for pregnancy termination in the predominantly Catholic country.

The chief justice, Julia Przyłębska, said in a ruling that existing legislation – one of Europe’s most restrictive – that allows for the abortion of malformed foetuses was “incompatible” with the constitution.

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Endometriosis showed me we need better ways to talk about women's pain | Emma Barnett

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 20:00

I struggled for 21 years before diagnosis. A new report by MPs isn’t enough for the one in 10 UK women who suffer too

You know when something isn’t right – in your body, your life, your mind. I certainly did for the 21 years I battled with my periods every month, only to be advised to try strong painkillers and various contraceptive pills, with sympathetic smiles from GPs. I was apparently one of the “unlucky ones”: those women who had been dealt the bad-period hand. The same script was fed to my mum and hers, both of whom dutifully digested the line, passed on from generation to generation like the worst kind of inheritance.

Except it wasn’t true. I was ill. Really ill. And it took two years of trying for a baby without a hint of success, and my periods getting worse, for me finally to push for answers. Even then, my guess-diagnosis came via a mate who happened to be an obstetrician, not from a doctor I had sought out. I say guess-diagnosis as I have a condition that can only be formally diagnosed via keyhole surgery. As I sat slumped to one side during a breakfast out one day – she inquired why I wasn’t sitting upright. I told her I never can on day one of my period, how my bone-deep pain feels like it’s dragging me slowly to the floor. She then gently mentioned a word I am ashamed I couldn’t spell, let alone pronounce: endometriosis.

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Australian women with endometriosis face six-year wait for diagnosis, study finds

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 14:55

Experts call for ‘dedicated women’s pain services’ after survey finds people often undergo surgeries that fail to improve their chronic agony

A study of 620 Australian women living with the painful and often debilitating condition endometriosis found women have to wait an average of 6.4 years before being diagnosed and often undergo surgeries that fail to improve their chronic pain.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, found despite medical and surgical intervention, 65.8% of respondents suffered period pain and 82.7% experienced chronic pelvic pain in the three months prior to responding to the survey. Respondents had consulted an average of three different health practitioner specialties in the previous 12  months.

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Meg Mathews: ‘I feared my colourful 90s life had caught up with me’

Sat, 10/17/2020 - 22:00

She felt anxious, depressed and overwhelmed, until she realised it was the menopause. Now Meg Mathews is on a mission to get women talking about it without shame

I am sitting in the road, in Primrose Hill, during a global pandemic, when Meg Mathews starts loudly telling me about her vaginal atrophy. All right, we’re at a café table but, due to the aforementioned plague, the tables have been allowed to stretch into the main thoroughfare, which is half closed to traffic, and Mathews is explaining how the menopause closed down her own private thoroughfare. “I first realised when I was wearing my workout leggings and they weren’t new, but they were starting to chafe,” she says, before describing the laser part of her “vaginal rejuvenation” treatment.

At this point, a voice from the pavement calls out “Meg!” and I can’t help but spin around, just in case it’s Kate Moss shouting from 1997, but it is not Kate Moss, it’s a sweet old lady in a raincoat with a tiny dog. “You’re looking well, Meg,” she says, and they chat politely until Meg can get rid of her neighbour and return to the business of her collapsing genitalia. The menopause is Meg’s new subject you see – the former first lady of Britpop, once married to Noel Gallagher, now has a book, a website and products to launch, all branded as Meg’s Menopause. She’s on a mission to rid us of our hormonal embarrassment and shame.

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Women march against Trump and Republicans in major US cities

Sat, 10/17/2020 - 09:57
  • Organizer: presidency will begin and end with women marching
  • March held at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s college, Cornell

Thousands of mostly young women in masks rallied on Saturday in Washington DC and other US cities, exhorting voters to oppose Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in the 3 November elections.

Related: Goodbye civil rights: Amy Coney Barrett's America is a terrifying place | Arwa Mahdawi

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A man tried to body shame the gloriously unabashed Billie Eilish. It didn’t go well

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 08:07

The six-time Grammy-winning singer has largely rejected the societal pressure placed on women to be quiet, feminine and pretty

Today a paparazzi photo of Billie Eilish without her usual baggy clothes has been shared on the internet, revealing – shock, horror! – the 18-year-old looks like she has a regular body like you or me.

The photo showed Eilish wearing shorts and a tank top, rather than her signature baggy clothing. And so a butt hurt man (apparently 29 and from the UK) took this opportunity to announce on Twitter: “In 10 months Billie Eilish has developed a mid-30’s wine mom body.” (The backlash was mercifully swift.)

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Corporate feminism gives us vagina candles and empowerment hotels. But all I want is equal rights | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 03:51

A new Washington DC hotel features pink pool tables, an Empowermint cocktail and Ruth Bader Ginsburg depicted in organic tampons. Its timing could not be worse

All women ever wanted was equal rights and bodily autonomy. Instead we got candles that smell like Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina. We got pink “pussy hats” and £580 Christian Dior T-shirts with “We should all be feminists” written on them. We got 15,389 articles about manspreading. We got #Girlbosses. We got Ms Monopoly, a board game in which women make more than men. And now corporate feminism has leaned into the hospitality industry and bequeathed us the empowerment hotel.

Last week, easily missed among the innumerable other horrors coming out of Washington DC, saw the opening of Hotel Zena. Located near the White House, the venue describes itself as “a groundbreaking hotel dedicated to female empowerment”. The whole thing feels like it was conjured up by Ivanka Trump in a fever dream – although the patron saint of fluffy feminism, I should clarify, has nothing to do with this particular endeavour. Hotel highlights include pink pool tables, a $16 cocktail called the Empowermint and 60 pieces of art, that, as the press release boasts, were created by “feminists of both genders”. The pièce de résistance is a mural of late US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made of 20,000 hand-painted organic tampons.

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Harman calls on Ofcom to publish data on older women in broadcasting

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 19:00

Former deputy Labour leader says female presenters over 50 ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’

Harriet Harman, the longest continuously serving female MP, has called on the media regulator, Ofcom, to publish data on the gender of older broadcasters to highlight the “double discrimination” facing senior female presenters on TV and radio.

In an opinion piece in this week’s Radio Times, Harman complained of a “cull” of women over the age of 50 in broadcasting that she said meant they were now “as rare as hen’s teeth”.

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A piece of Fleet Street history: Katharine Whitehorn's desk for sale

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 00:15

Pioneering columnist’s 60s design classic to be auctioned to aid Alzheimer’s charity

They were inspiring and entertaining words that helped set the tone for more than just one era of social change. Katharine Whitehorn’s 60 years of provocative, useful and funny journalism and books were all typed up at a large wooden desk in a busy family living room.

Now that desk, a piece of classic Danish design as well as vintage Fleet Street history, is to go under Bonhams the auctioneer’s hammer to raise money for a charity that cares for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Cleaning up: the social media stars making housework cool

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 22:15

Donning the Marigolds need not be a chore, according to a new breed of influencers who say cleaning is fun and aspirational

There were fears that this autumn’s bumper crop of books would see some titles overlooked – but one volume definitely didn’t get brushed under the carpet. This Is Me by Sophie Hinchliffe, better known as the Instagram cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch, was the runaway hit of Super Thursday on 1 October, fighting stiff competition from almost 800 other hardbacks published that day to top the UK charts and shift more than 90,000 copies in its first week.

It’s no surprise: Mrs Hinch’s three previous books have been bestsellers, and the 30-year-old comes with a readymade audience thanks to her “Hinch Army” of 3.8 million Instagram followers.

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Enough with militias. Let’s call them what they really are: domestic terrorists | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 03:00

This week the FBI announced charges in a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer. Much of the coverage referred to them as a militia – and the governor wasn’t having it

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